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Bandon’s football season came to an end a little earlier than the Tigers likely would have liked when they fell at Neah-Kah-Nie 22-14 in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Friday.

The Tigers now look ahead to another good season next year with a bunch of starters returning from the team that finished second in the Sunset Conference.

“We’ve just got to mature and get better,” coach Aaron Freitag said. “We look forward to next year. It starts next week.”

Bandon has made it to the playoffs in both years under Freitag and shown steady growth with a tough defense. That has happened despite a young team both years, which has meant lots of freshmen and sophomores getting time as starters or in key positions.

Those players will be a year older next year, ideally hungry for more success after two strong seasons that finished with first-round playoff exits.

“It was a good experience for those guys,” Freitag said. “Now we’ve got to get these guys in the weight room until we can get over the hump.”

The Tigers were hurt by untimely mistakes against Neah-Kah-Nie, which is seeded third for the playoffs.

Bandon had a couple of turnovers in the red zone when the Tigers were primed to score and had a first-half touchdown called back by one of numerous costly penalties. Another of those penalties, in the fourth quarter, cost Bandon a chance to pin the Pirates back on their goal line when the Tigers had downed a punt at the 1-yard line.

Ultimately, the miscues were too much for Bandon to overcome.

Neah-Kah-Nie took a 16-0 halftime lead with touchdown passes in each of the first two quarters by

Mychal Kelly.

Cayton Sinay scored on a 22-yard run in the third quarter to pull Bandon within 16-8, but Neah-Kah-Nie answered on a short touchdown run by Tristan Bennett.

Bandon quarterback Braydon Freitag hit Wyatt Dyer with a 15-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to pull Bandon back within a touchdown, but the Tigers never got a chance to pull even.

“We had a chance at the end, but we couldn’t get the stop when we needed it,” Freitag said.

Bandon graduates Sinay and center Matt Yarbor and three other seniors, but returns the bulk of the roster, including a number linemen who should get even better with another year of experience and playmakers including freshman receivers Reef Berry and Cooper Lang.

Braydon Freitag, meanwhile, will be back as a fourth-year starter at quarterback, one of just four juniors on this year’s team.

That’s part of what made this year’s playoff run special for the Tigers, but also part of the challenge against Neah-Kah-Nie. Aaron Freitag noted before and after the game that it was a contrast between the Pirates’ seniors and juniors and Bandon’s freshmen and sophomores.

All three Sunset Conference teams got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Champion Coquille lost at home to Lost River on Saturday and third-place Toledo was dominated by Santiam.

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